Master of Education in Distance Education (MDDE) 611

Foundations of Adult Education

Course cover

Delivery Mode: Group Study (with eTextbook)

Credits: 3

Prerequisite: None.

Precluded Course: MDDE 611 cannot be taken for credit if credit has already been obtained for Athabasca University's EDUC 309

Availability: Fall Term Only

Note: MEd program students must complete Mdde601 & Mdde602 prior to all other courses
Early access to the Moodle Learning Management System begins a few days before the official start date of your course. At that time you will have limited course access.


MDDE 611: Foundations of Adult Education introduces the purposes of adult education, and provides an overview of adult education theory and practice. Although the course is not intended as a comprehensive examination of the field of adult education, it will provide you with a foundation for studying other adult education courses and related fields.

A complementary course to MDDE 611 within the MEd and MAIS programs is MDDE 613 Adult Education and Lifelong Learning.

Course Goals

The goals of the course are to provide you with the following skills and knowledge:

  • Critically discuss the foundations of adult education;
  • Describe the dominant theoretical perspectives in adult education and relate them to practice;
  • Identify and discuss the key social, economic, and political issues that currently affect adult education.
  • Analyze an adult education issue using an integrated approach;
  • Discuss how adult education theory relates to distance education;
  • Discuss your informed, critical perspective on the purpose of adult education for the 21st century.

Course Outline

The course is composed of seven units:

  1. Unit 1: Exploring the Foundations
  2. Unit 2: Understanding the Social
  3. Unit 3: Education for Economy
  4. Unit 4: Education for Transformation
  5. Unit 5: Education for Diversity
  6. Unit 6: Education at a Distance: Online and Open
  7. Unit 7: Canadian Adult Education in a Global Context

Learning Resources


Registration in this course includes an electronic textbook. For more information on electronic textbooks, please refer to our eText Initiative site.

Athabasca University (1988). Perspectives: On adult education. (Interviews with Malcolm Knowles, Allen Tough, Patricia Cross and Roger Boshier). Athabasca, AB: AU Press. 

Freire, P. (2003). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Revised 30th Anniversary Edition. New York: Continuum. [Original work published 1970]. 


Nesbit, T., Brigham, S., Taber, N., & Gibb, T. (Eds.) (2013). Building on critical traditions: Adult education and learning in Canada. Toronto, ON: Thompson Educational Publishing.

Spencer, B., & Lange E. (2014). The purposes of adult education: A short introduction. Toronto, ON: Thompson.

Welton, M. (Ed.) (1987). Knowledge for the people. Toronto, ON: OISE. (E-text)

Other Resources

Online Study Guide and Readings

Student Assessment

Students will be assessed on the basis of six assignments and their participation in the course.

Activity Credit Weight
Assignment 1: Chapter Review 25%
Assignment 2: Program Critique Group Presentation 25%
Assignment 3: Research Paper 30%
Course Participation: 20%
Total 100%

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.